Liquid Assets: Water Testing for Household Well Owners A Snap

Easy Well TestingTesting one’s drinking water can be intimidating to a household well owner, but it can be easy if you know a few basic steps, says the National Ground Water Association (NGWA).

If you are concerned about your well water, these three steps can help get owners the appropriate tests for contaminants that might present a health risk — or create taste, odor, or appearance problems:

1. Determine what you should test for in your water.

2. Obtain a reliable water test.

3. Get an interpretation of your test results so you can take any appropriate action.
An excellent place to start learning more about these three steps is the NGWA website,
www.WellOwner.org.

Small Businesses Hold the Key to Employee Happiness

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – As the calendar flips to another year, many employees will consider starting the new year on the hunt for a new job. In today’s changing workforce, it is more important than ever for companies to realize that a salary alone is no longer enough to recruit or retain strong employees. According to a recent survey by Aflac, small businesses deserve a round of applause for their ability to keep employees happy. The report found that 85 percent of small-business employees are happy in their current job and more than half (51 percent) agree that most of or all of their happiness in their current job is because is a result of working for a small business.
The keys to happiness
Nearly a quarter of participants (23 percent) stated that the feeling of importance was the best part of working for a small business. Small businesses have the unique ability to make employees feel appreciated, respected and valued on a personal and professional level. In a small business environment, there are typically fewer layers between newcomers and leadership. This tight-knit structure of small businesses can create a family-like atmosphere that allows employees to feel that their opinions matter and that they play a significant role in the business’s mission.
Flexibility is also vital in creating employee happiness. According to the report, 30 percent of respondents noted that flexible scheduling was the best part of working for a small business. This can include working from home, leaving work early to play in a summer sports league or giving new parents an extra week of paid time off to help care for their newborn. A workplace that promotes healthy work-life balance can create happier, less stressed employees and can also increase employee productivity on the job.
Unlocking improvements
Although small businesses excel at keeping employees happy, there is always room for improvement. In a small-business community, money does not seem to be the only motivator. In fact, 65 percent of small-business employees indicate that an improvement in their benefits offerings would make them happier employees. By offering a robust benefits plan that includes voluntary benefits, small businesses can ensure that their employees are able to find the right benefits to meet their individual needs.
Learn more at aflac.com/smallbusiness.

A New Read on Literacy: The 3 Keys to Building Lifelong Readers

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Think there’s almost a conspiracy out there to squelch your child’s belief in Santa Claus? Technology can help you fight back.
For years the big guy in red has had to contend with aggressive pushback from the PC crowd who apparently wish he’d just pack up his sleigh and stay home in the North Pole. Department stores were pressured to nix their Santa stand-ins. Schools changed their calendars to say “winter holidays” instead of Christmas. And let’s not even talk about the damage done to his image by Billy Bob Thornton’s “Bad Santa” movies.
Santa, being Santa, could keep right on ho-hoing when lesser immortals would’ve sicked their elves on them.
But you?
Clearly, just quoting pro-Santa experts like Professor Jacqueline Woolley, chair of the Psychology Department at the University of Texas at Austin, wasn’t going to cut it. “Believing in impossible beings such as Santa Claus may exercise children’s counterfactual reasoning skills,” she’s written. “The kind of thinking involved in imagining how nine reindeer could fly through the sky carrying a heavy sleigh may well be the same kind of thinking required for imagining a solution to global warming or a way to cure a disease.”
Which is where a website called www.PackageFromSanta.com comes in.
First started a decade ago as a pure labor of love by the husband-and-wife team of Dale and Carey Gruber operating out of their home in suburban Washington Township, Michigan, the business has grown to the point where it now includes a 21st-century app — downloadable at the iTunes and Android App Stores — that lets users worldwide personalize a phone call to their kids from none other than Santa himself.
As in, say, “So! Olivia, I couldn’t be prouder of you for being such a good girl! And I’ll see you soon.”
And completing the effect for tech-savvy kids: Both their own and Santa’s name and photo appear on their smartphone’s call screen (with the call shown as originating from the “North Pole Workshop”).
“The reason we continue to do this is that it often seems like there’s an effort to take the joy out of Christmas,” explains Dale Gruber, who’s also a graphic artist. “Whereas we think a child’s innocent belief in Santa is something worth fostering.”
You can watch a video here. But know the site offers three different packages at very affordable prices — all also include a letter from Santa and a personalized Santa video — and feature items like Christmas cocoa, “genuine reindeer food,” and a tin of Mrs. Claus’ Famous Sugar Cookies.
In fact, so popular has PackageFromSanta.com become that celebrity fans like Sarah Palin, Bristol Palin, and reality TV star Kim Kolciak Biermann have taken to social media to sing its praises this Christmas season.
Think of it as Santa’s ultimate ho-ho.

Bates Family Grows as Daughters Become Moms

(NewsUSA)Blazin Buffalo Potato Skins

1. Blazin’ Buffalo Potato Skins

It’s the big-game weekend and you’re hosting. You want something bold, flavorful, and better for you. Get recipe here.Nutty Tapenade

2. Nutty Tapenade

Dips are an easy way to feed the crowd. Here’s a lighter option that is just as creamy and rich as ever. Get recipe here.Spicy California Quesadillas

3. Spicy California Quesadillas

This twist on a classic appetizer will fill you up, while still packing a ton of nutrients. Get recipe here.Sun-dried Turkey Meatballs

4. Sun-dried Turkey Meatballs

You know protein is king when it comes to feeling full, so why not pack a one-two punch by adding Blue Diamond almonds? Get recipe here.Almond Cupcakes

Welcome to El Salvador: We’ve Been Expecting You

(NewsUSA) – When travelers think of El Salvador, it is not often that visions of pristine beaches, luxury hotels or centuries-old cobble stone streets would be top of mind. But this small, yet beautiful country in Central America (roughly the size of Massachusetts) has done much to reinvent itself and is positioned to be the next trendy hot spot for travel.Renowned for its Pacific Ocean beaches, surfing, lush landscapes and unspoiled natural habitats, El Salvador is an eco-traveler’s paradise that is also known as the Land of Volcanoes with 25 active volcanoes, which, with their beautiful mountain ridges, are eye-catching as they rise stark and majestic against the background of blue skies. Looking out from high above while standing on one of the many natural overlooks within the ridges, visitors can see monster waves crashing against soft, black sand beaches, which are a haven for surf enthusiasts.If the warm waters are not your style, there are plenty of additional attractions to visit, from memorials and museums that pay homage to the country’s roots to other natural beauties, including a collection of archaeological sites and vast amounts of coffee plantations.For those looking to explore this fascinating, up-and-coming travel destination, the tourism board has created a variety of routes to help plan your next adventure:* Hang ten. El Salvador has ideal surfing conditions along the shores of its southern beaches. At these surfing spots, travelers can find schools with bilingual instructors and shops to rent surfboards. La Libertad is one of the most popular areas with Punta Roca anchoring the surf scene. With waves that are appealing to all levels from beginner to professional, combined with consistently warm waters averaging 80 degrees year-round, it is no wonder why the country hosts numerous competitions.* Delve into history. Day trippers can wander through colonial cities and explore grand, historic structures such as the cathedral and national theater off the square at Santa Ana, or take a quiet stroll past pastel-colored houses, such as those found in the mountain town of Suchitoto.* Dig in. For those looking to dig into the country’s heritage (literally and figuratively), guides arrange tours to top archaeological sites of the Mayan world such as Joya De Ceren, which includes museums and trails and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.* Take a plantation tour. If your love of coffee knows no bounds, then you have come to the right country. Visitors who want to experience El Salvador’s coffee culture can learn about the process from plant to cup — the proper methods of growing coffee beans, harvesting, sorting, drying, roasting and the delicate process the fruit (that is right, a coffee bean is considered a fruit) goes through before it can be brewed into the iconic beverage that helps kick-start your morning.* Channel your inner artist. Visit small towns dedicated to the craftsmanship of objects made from wood, clay, natural fibers and recycled materials. Historically, indigo ruled the area and was the key driver of the economy before a synthetic component was created. Today, visitors can still learn the original, organic way indigo was used to create vibrant apparel and try their hand at creating a perfect garment.Whether you are looking for an active vacation or relaxing beach getaway, El Salvador has the ideal blend of attractions. For more information, please visit http://elsalvador.travel

A Better Approach to Selling Your Business

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – Blame it on kids who can download music from iTunes with a swipe of a finger. Or point to a sluggish economy. Maybe it’s the fact that society as a whole, while still in love with music, would rather watch TV than gather around a piano.
Whatever the reason, piano sales have been less than grand for decades, as fewer people take up the instrument. With an average cost of $16,000 for a new grand piano, it’s easy to understand why those who are interested might opt for a less expensive electronic keyboard or buy used.
According to the National Association of Music Merchants, the best year for new piano sales was more than a century ago; in 1909 more than 364,500 were sold, and our population was only 90 million.
Today? Our population has more than tripled, while piano sales have reportedly plummeted to an all-time low. Only 30,000 new pianos were sold in 2015.
“Computer technology has just changed everything about what kids are interested in,” said Larry Fine, a Boston-based piano technician. “People are interested in things that don’t take much effort, so the idea of sitting and playing an hour a day to learn piano is not what kids want to do.”
Which is why piano stores like Piano Man’s Piano Superstore in College Park, Maryland, is being forced to close its doors. The 32,000 square foot store specializes in late-model, brand-name, pre-owned pianos at discounted prices, catering to professionals as well as beginners. The company normally reconditions and restores 20 to 30 pianos every month, but the company said its sales have been lagging.
Owner Nick Margaritas said that since the onset of the recession, new piano sales have been dropping rapidly and are only half of what they were in 2008. Another indicator that things are not what they once were is that sales for the 2015 Christmas season — a peak time for the industry — were the softest seen in years. Couple that with the blizzard of 2016, and the decision to close an operation that was simply “too big to succeed” was an easy one, said Margaritas.
Top brands such as Steinway, Baldwin, Yamaha, Kawai and others must be sold prior to the projected closing date of April 30. The Baltimore Showroom and Piano Service Center that has been in operation since 1974 will, however, remain open.
For more information, visit www.pianomansuperstore.com.

Brighten Your Holidays With LED Lights

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Driving through neighborhoods this holiday season, you may have noticed that some holiday lights are brighter and more vividly colored than others. According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), the reason for the added brilliance is that more and more homeowners are opting to decorate with LED lights instead of the traditional incandescent type.
“Incandescent bulbs have been used for decorating holiday trees since 1882, shortly after (Thomas)Edison invented and demonstrated his first practical incandescent bulbs on New Year’s Eve in 1879,” says Terry McGowan, ALA director of technology. “Now, more than a century later, incandescent holiday lights are being phased out as LED bulbs appear in a multitude of types, colors, sizes and string configurations.”
Compared to strings of incandescent bulbs, LEDs offer:
* Longer bulb life (3-year warranties; average life up to 100,000 hours)
* Energy savings (16-17 watts of savings for a 25-foot light string) — a reduction of more than 75 percent
* Bright colors — LEDs generate only the desired color; incandescent bulbs use color filters which waste light
* Cool operation — LEDs have no hot filament inside; bulbs remain cool
What’s New This Year?
* Miniature Light Strings. LEDs are small and can be fabricated into tiny dots of light. American Lighting Inc. (www.Americanlighting.com) calls these “dew drop” lights. Strings of these tiny cool-operating lights can be used to decorate foliage, live plants or a floral centerpiece. The light strings are made in various colors and operate at low voltage, and some strings are designed for battery operation so that no power cords are required.
* Tree wrapping. Strings of lights closely wrapped around the base of deciduous trees and then up into the branches give a festive look to even small trees or shrubs. The secret is to use strings of lights with 6 inches or less between bulbs, which can be wrapped around the trunk and limbs with no more than 3inches between the layers of wrapped wiring.
* Magnetic sockets. Sockets designed to be used with standard screw-in incandescent or LED bulbs are available with built-in magnets that hold tightly to any ferrous metal. A narrow metal backing strip can be used to quickly mount lights in a straight line, making installation, take-down or spacing adjustments easy. The magnets keep the lights in line and hold tightly in all weather conditions.
For more LED lighting tips, visit americanlightingassoc.com.

Greener Cities Crop Up, Starting in California

SpreadRootsIt’s not easy being green these days — especially when you share space with more than 3 million people. And yet, one Southern California company is making it its business to do just that.

BP Gardens, a subsidiary of GreenGro Technologies (OTC: GNRH), an Anaheim-based eco-friendly technology company, is taking local farming in a crowded urban environment to a whole new level by designing vertical gardens. Its hope, says CEO James Haas, is to provide communities, restaurants, and grocers with locally grown, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables.

Michelin Tires Helps Yellowstone National Park Go Green

OldFaithfulCTourists visiting Yellowstone National Park’s famous geyser, “Old Faithful,” will even use tires once they get out of their cars for a closer look. Old Faithful, you see, now boasts a porous, clean, flexible walkway made almost entirely of recycled Michelin tires. The “paved” surface, known as Flexi-Pave and manufactured by the company K.B. Industries (KBI), is kinder to the environment than asphalt because the permeable composite material allows for better erosion control and preservation of the natural patterns of groundwater flow. In addition, the walkway surface is highly durable and tolerant of extreme hot or cold weather, and does not leach any oil into the surrounding environment.

Prevent Water Damage And Cut Insurance Costs

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – When most people are envisioning their retirement, they picture themselves doing things they love, like dancing, playing tennis, or running around the playground with their grandchildren. Unfortunately, retirement isn’t always as great as hoped. These days, too many seniors find themselves losing their independence due to the natural aging process.
According to Marketing Charts, 26 percent of seniors surveyed said that losing their independence was their biggest fear. That’s higher than the 13 percent of seniors who feared moving into a nursing home or 3 percent fearing death. Instead of seniors fearing a loss of independence, let’s look at some ways they can regain it and start making all of their retirement dreams come true.
Invest in a Power Wheelchair
Power wheelchairs provide seniors with independence and comfort beyond a traditional manual wheelchair. Seniors can stay independent thanks to joystick movement, letting them choose speed and direction they are comfortable with. Power wheelchairs also allow seniors to recline and tilt, helping them raise their legs if they need to.
Attach Bathroom Aids
Installing grab bars or safety handles on tubs and walls, along with bath and shower chairs, can help seniors regain their independence by giving them the confidence they need to safely bath themselves, even if they have a home health aide helping them.
Install a Stairlift
Seniors looking to recapture their independence, especially when they can’t make it up the stairs anymore, can install an Acorn Stairlift. Seniors with arthritis don’t have to worry, because it’s the only approved starlift, with the Ease-of-Use commendation by the Arthritis Foundation.
Available for straight or curved stairs, Acorn Stairlifts provides seniors with a safe and secure movement from sitting down to stepping off through its swivel seat and safety belt. With this stairlift, seniors also don’t have to worry about malfunctions with its built-in safety sensors that prevent it from running into something it shouldn’t. It also features an easy-to-read numerical display notifying seniors if it needs servicing — preventing it from malfunctioning with someone on it.
Learn more about how seniors can regain their independence by visiting www.acornstairlifts.com.